WAC settle Chikatara debt to avoid Champions League disqualification

BY: Samuel Ebo Kwaitoo

Moroccan side, Wydad Athletic Club (WAC) of Casablanca, have coughed out a whopping $187,000 to settle an outstanding two-year debt owed Nigerian player Chisom Elvis Chikatara to avoid an imminent disqualification from the ongoing CAF Champions League.

WAC hurriedly paid the player the full amount of $187,250.33 last week before travelling to Accra to honour their CAF Champions League second round first leg match against Ghana’s Hearts of Oak at the Accra Stadium last Sunday.

This was confirmed to Graphic Sports Online by the player’s lawyer, Johnny Precious Ogbah, Head of Sports Law at Activity Chambers, on Wednesday.

“WAC paid the full amount owed the player per the FIFA ruling last week so there is no case,” he revealed.

He further disclosed that though there was a vital information he could have divulged to Hearts to use against the Moroccans, there was no need to do so now that they had done the needful.

Aside that, Mr Ogbah said Hearts did not show any interest in pursuing the case against WAC when he wrote to them on September 20, 2021 to inform them of their opponents’ ineligibility to participate in the 2021/2022 CAF Champions League after failing to meet CAF’s payment deadline of August 15, 2021.

However, the Moroccans obviously capitalised on a Daily Graphic and Graphic Sports Online publications on September 23, 2021 to end the protracted dispute before Hearts could cash in on the FIFA ban to ensure their disqualification from the 2021/2022 CAF Champions League.

The FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber ruled in favour of Chikatara on March 7, 2019 and awarded a cost of $165,167 against WAC for failing to fulfil their contractual obligations towards the player.

However, WAC failed to abide by the FIFA ruling, leading to a hefty fine of $187,250.33 from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), comprising the judgement sum of $165,167, in addition to a five per cent interest accruing from April 7, 2019 to April 7, 2021 and a cost of 3,000 Swiss Francs.

Mr Ogbah had in a separate to the Head of the Club Licensing Department of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation on July 29, 2021, informed them of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber ruling in favour of his client on March 7, 2019 and also awarded the cost of $165,167 against WAC.

“This was to be paid within 30 days. The decision further stated that in the event that the aforementioned amounts are not paid by the Respondent within the stated time limit, interest at the rate of 5% p.a. will fall due as of the expiry date,” it explained.

“This is because vide a petition dated July 29, 2021, we informed CAF of their ineligibility as they owed our clients overdue payables and after investigation, CAF gave them a deadline of August 15, 2021, to pay the overdue payables they owed our client,” the letter stressed.

Mr Ogbah further explained that the Hearts letter followed an earlier petition to CAF dated July 29, 2021, to inform the continental soccer body of WAC’s ineligibility since they still owed his client “overdue payables”, following which CAF gave the Moroccan side the August 15, 2021 deadline to settle their indebtedness or suffer the consequences.

It will be recalled that Hearts beat WAC 1-0 in the first leg in Accra on Sunday, October 17, while the return leg comes off in Casablanca on Sunday, October 24,